On December 26, 2003, a powerful earthquake struck southeastern Iran, killing over 43,000 people, injuring 20,000, leaving 60,000 people homeless, and destroying much of the city of Bam, a World Heritage Site.
The USGS National Earthquake information center is reported a magnitude of 6.6 for the quake, which was located just southwest of the city. About 60 percent of the buildings in Bam were destroyed. The old quarter and a 2,000-year-old citadel (severely damaged by the earthquake) were built primarily of mud brick.
US/ICOMOS moved immediately to organize efforts to provide assistance with eventual conservation needs for the ancient city. Following a call for action distributed via email to the ICOMOS network, grants were obtained from the World Monuments Fund and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation to assist in these efforts.
Email sent to US/ICOMOS members 12 December 2004
from Gustavo Araoz, Executive Director, US/ICOMOS
In this season where we annually contemplate the potential for peace, our celebration have been hit with the horrendous news of the devastating quake in the historic city of Bam in Iran, where the calculations of fatalities are incomprehensible in their number. In the ICOMOS world of international cooperation and solidarity, the tragedy in Iran is also our tragedy; our hearts go out to all suffering Iranians who have lost family and possessions. Our pledge to help within our full capability goes to ICOMOS Iran.
ICOMOS International is responding immediately: Dinu Bumbaru, our Secretary General has been in contact with our colleagues in Iran, and will be traveling there within the next few days, as soon as the Iranians are ready to receive him and gain access to the site which as of today remains difficult. He was scheduled to fly out tonight, but he has been asked to wait a few more days until the immediate human tragedy can permit focusing on the heritage aspects of recovery. Once there, he will work with our Iranian colleagues in assessing damages and developing form of international response to this catastrophic event. From Iran, Dinu will be going directly to the meeting of the ICOMOS Executive Committee in Paris in mid-January, where undoubtedly we will formulate specific initiatives for assistance and cooperation. This will involve donations and volunteer help from all our individual and institutional members in the US and worldwide, and US/ICOMOS anticipates the establishment of an Iran Heritage Relief Fund for these purposes. At that time, we hope that you will be generous with your time, talents and financial resources. However, given the limitations of the US Treasury Department on the transfer of funds to Iran, we will need to research the exact mechanisms to do this within the legal framework of U.S. Law.
Be assured that we will keep you posted on how you can help with the next stages of our response, and share Dinu’s findings with all of you.
Gustavo F Araoz, AIA
Executive Director, US/ICOMOS
Randolph Langenbach (US/ICOMOS member) Travels to Bam, Iran, and Germany
The World Monuments Fund subsequently provided a grant to US/ICOMOS to allow Randolph Langenbach (US/ICOMOS member and specialist on the effects of seismic activity on earthen architecture) to travel to Bam with a global team of experts to assess the damage and make recommendations for conservation and reconstruction efforts. The Samuel H. Kress Foundation then provided a grant to allow Mr. Langenbach to travel to a LEHM 2004 conference and workshop in Germany to present a paper “Soil Dynamics and the Earthquake Destruction of the Earth Architecture of the Arg-E Bam.” The conference was held 27-31 October 2004 in Leipzig and the follow-up conference, sponsored by the Bauhaus University Weimar was held 1-2 November 2004.
US/ICOMOS is grateful to both the World Monuments Fund and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation for their support in providing earthquake disaster assistance to Bam, Iran.